Notes on RFID Technology, 2001

by Moya K. Mason

Radio frequency identification (RFID) is a relatively new wireless Automatic Identification and Data Capture (AIDC) technology that first appeared in the 1980s and has since taken a lead role worldwide in identification and automated data collection systems. These systems do not require contact in the form of optical scanning and work even in conditions where snow, ice, fog, paint, and mud are factors, making them better suited for environments that are hostile to barcode labeling. The technology is particularly useful in keeping track of moving objects, such as animals and vehicles, as well as anti-shoplifting applications like the Electronic Article Surveillance (EAS) systems used throughout the retail industry.

A List of RFID Attributes From a Variety of Sources

Accenture: The Invisible World of Silent Commerce

RFID tags, along with sensors and microprocessors, are transforming everyday objects into those that are smart and interactive. When you add the Internet into the mix, what you get is Silent Commerce, with objects communicating directly and monetary transactions taking place.

RFID tags allow you to scan and keep track of items from the factory to the consumer; identify merchandise authenticity; trace items of inventory; help to prevent theft and piracy; and act to monitor product environmental conditions.

Accenture Technology Labs: Imagining the Future: Real-World Showroom

"One day soon, the convergence of wireless devices, shopping services and RFID enabled objects could transform the world around us into a real-time showroom," says Dadong Wan, senior researcher at Accenture Technology Labs.

RFID tags are smart and inexpensive. They can be built into products to store information, which can then be communicated using such devices as portable readers. Accenture Technology Labs has developed a prototype application call Real-World Showroom that uses wireless devices and RFID tags. It is part of the Silent Commerce Initiative that brings together marketplaces, embedded tags, sensors, and always-on wireless connections. Real-World Showroom allows you to find out product information in real-time by pointing a PDA at any tagged product. The application will even allow you to buy the product by pressing a few more buttons.


RemoteLogic is a service company that equips your enterprise with tags, handles the data, and reports it to you.

RemoteLogic transforms spaces into smart environments by first surveying how employee behavior and materials are flowing so as to establish where RFID technology can be used to automatically collect data and transmit it back to a server. This allows all types of materials to be tracked, such as luggage and assembly line parts. RemoteLogic uses the wireless RFID technology coupled with specialized hardware and software to create a backend information system for their clients to view through a web interface to keep better track of their inventories, as well as have automatically-generated service records, invoices, and order histories.

Beyond the Barcode

The next generation of barcodes aren't cheap enough yet, but engineers are working towards one penny radio tags. These RFID tags send radio signals that are filled with consumer information to manufacturers in real time. The technology also allows individual products to be tracked. What will a world of billions of tagged products be like? What are the privacy concerns involved when homes, warehouses, factories, clothes, and even money are tracked constantly as part of an always-on network?

The other thing that needs to be done is to seamlessly link the tags to the Internet. The Auto-ID Center, an MIT based consortium that includes corporations such as Gillette, Sun Microsystems, and International Paper, began working in 1999 on a cost-saving system that will integrate the radio frequency tags with the Internet.

"Last year, International Paper partnered with Motorola to use their radio tag on some of the 8.6 million metric tons of corrugated crates, boxes, and other packages that the paper company uses annually. Mostly concerned with theft/black market."

Possible Examples to Add In

Transponder News

New developments in the technology can be found in electronic car security, postal system efficiency testing, finding lost golf balls, keeping track of criminals, creating intelligent household appliances, and for the collection of tolls. In an effort to continue generating income from tollbooths, without forcing a driver to stop and pay their fees, RFID systems are gradually being implemented. The transponders are embedded within vehicles, and can be read as a car drives through toll areas, even at high speeds. For instance, in 1998, Singapore instituted an Electronic Road Pricing (ERP} system for traffic management, using $150 window-mounted transponders.


Aula is providing each of its members with an RFID tag that is used both as a key to the group's meeting place, as well as an ID. It looks like a red poker chip the size of a U.S. nickel or a U.K. pound coin. A lightweight fashion accessory of sorts.

POX - Hasbro

The RF wireless technology is used in the electronic fantasy game called POX that allows players to battle each other within a 30 foot area.

Elisa Batista - New Phone Service: Coke Waiting

Snap-on shopping devices are available for U.S. users of the Nokia 5100 series phones that use RFID technology from the 2Scoot company.

Will Knight - Tiny radio chips give paper an ID

The Meu-chip from Hitachi is a programmable RFID chip with 128-bits of RAM that is so small that it could be embedded into paper products, even legal tender. The chip has no power source but can transmit data to computer systems, which would allow money to be tracked and counterfeit bills to be more easily identified.

The WEM Project - Scott Fisher

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